Weekend Box Office – THE DARK KNIGHT RISES Makes It Three in a Row; TOTAL RECALL Can’t Compete

     August 5, 2012

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Going into this weekend, there were some people who believed Sony’s remake of Total Recall would give The Dark Knight Rises a run for its money. Those people were wrong. With an estimate of $36.4 million, TDKR claimed its third straight weekend at number one while Total Recall barely topped the debut of the Arnold Schwarzenegger original… back in 1990.

Title Weekend Total
1. The Dark Knight Rises $36,440,000 $354.6
2. Total Recall $26,000,000 $26
3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3 $14,700,000 $14.7
4. Ice Age 4 $8,400,000 $131.8
5. The Watch $6,350,000 $21.3
6. Ted $5,479,000 $203.4
7. Step Up Revolution $5,300,000 $21.3
8. The Amazing Spider-Man $4,300,000 $250.6
9. Brave $2,890,000 $233.3
10. Magic Mike $1,390,000 $110.8

the-dark-knight-rises-tom-hardy-posterThe first thing to note about this weekend’s top ten is that, overall, its total does not come close to equaling 2011 levels. August is not generally known for posting gigantic returns but, one year ago, Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes bucked that trend by opening to over $54 million.  Most say that theatre owners have the London Olympics to thank for this year’s lower-than-average estimates and their complaint may have merit. Four years ago, The Dark Knight largely avoided the Summer Games, which opened in Beijing on August eighth. By that time TDK had already enjoyed three weeks on top and would wind up holding on for a fourth despite its televised competition.

On this weekend in 2008, The Dark Knight earned its own third weekend at number one with $42.6 million. Though TDKR could manage only $36.4 million four years later, its rate of decline (-41%) was lower than its predecessor’s (-43%) at the same point. So, Olympics or no, The Dark Knight Rises is keeping pace. The two film’s domestic totals may not be equal – TDK had earned $393.7 million by its seventeenth day to TDKR’s $354.6 – but for that we can thank the tragic Colorado asterisk that will always attend the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

total-recall-remake-posterMoving on to Total Recall, what can I say?  Was the remake’s estimate of $26 million a disaster? Not exactly. Consider that the original film earned $25.5 million on its first weekend.  Of course that was twenty-two years ago – and I haven’t adjusted for inflation. Aside from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we can look at the opening of other sci-fi titles to get a feel for what a genre winner looks like in August. Back in 2009, the R-rated District 9 earned $37.3 million on its first weekend; and that was without Total Recall’s more accessible PG-13 rating.

I’ve heard budget estimates for the Total Recall remake that range from $135 to $200 million. If we take the higher end of the scale, there doesn’t appear to be a way for Sony to climb out of the domestic hole its film has dug itself. European audiences may look on Colin Farrell films more favorably than we do in the US, so there’s a chance that international grosses will make the difference. One piece of positive news is that Total Recall managed to avoid the fate of the Farrell’s last August remake. One year ago Farrell headlined the revamped Fright Night; a film that realized just $7.7 million in its first three days.

diary of a wimpy kid 3 dog days imageSince 2010 Fox has turned a small profit from its low-budget Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise.  Based on the popular children’s books, the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid cost the studio just $15 million and earned more than $75 million worldwide. One year later, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules did almost as well, opening to $23.7 million and ending its run with $72 million global. But in 2012, the series seems to have hit a rough patch. Opening this weekend in 3,391 locations, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days earned an estimated $14.7 million: far less than either of its predecessors. Of course, the first two Wimpy flicks debuted in March instead of August. I’m sure that Fox thought a summer slot would benefit their family-friendly franchise but it’s generally a bad idea to tinker with a winning formula.

Along with this weekend’s less-than-commanding debuts, the box office down-turn also hit holdovers where it hurt. The Watch fell 50% from its unimpressive opening weekend, bringing its ten day total to just over $25 million. On a happier note, Seth MacFarlane’s Ted reached a major milestone this weekend, crossing the $200 million mark after 38 days.

I mentioned that, back in 2008, The Dark Knight held the top spot for four weeks in a row. Though, with all things considered, The Dark Knight Rises has done an admirable job keeping up with its predecessor, its winning streak is destined to end at three.  Next weekend’s challenge will come from The Bourne Legacy, with Jeremy Renner taking over where departed star Matt Damon left off. The new Bourne is expected to open in the $35 million range – not a blockbuster but more than enough to send TDKR packing.

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